TODAY is the 73rd anniversary of the Fall of Bataan. It was always known as Bataan Day or even Bataan and Corregidor Day until a law was passed to name it Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor).
The fall of the Bataan peninsula in World War II ended the US-Philippine effort to defend our archipelago against the Japanese invasion. Lacking food, medicine and ammunition, the Philippine-American forces surrendered to the Japanese Imperial Forces on April 9, 1942. The 68,000 Filipino soldiers and 11,796 Americans who became the Japan’s prisoners of war were made to go through the “Bataan Death March” of 140 kilometers.
The Japanese Army committed physical abuse on our heroes. Japanese soldiers beat them. They were given little or no food and water. Exhausted and sick Filipino and American prisoners who fell were bayoneted by Japanese soldiers or beheaded with sabers or shining samurai swords by Japanese officers on horseback. The Japanese military at that time still had a strong Bushido culture that deemed a surrendered warrior to have lost his honor and so did not deserve to be treated with dignity as a human being. This was used as a defense by the officers accused of committing crimes against humanity before Allied Commissions after the war. They said their culture allowed them to treat prisoners of war like animals.
The Death March brought the prisoners from Mariveles, Bataan, to San Fernando, Pampanga. At San Fernando, the survivors were taken by box train to the Philippine Commonwealth’s Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. There they were subjected to more cruelties.
The Allied Military judges proclaimed the Death March to be a war crime committed by the Japanese Empire.
Some 2,500–10,000 Filipino and 100–650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach San Fernando. The actual number of fatalities cannot be determined because some of the Death Marchers, helped by civilians, were able to slide away and meld with our grieving countrymen who lined the route, daring to offer food and water to the prisoners and thereby taking the risk of being bayoneted or at least beaten by the Japanese MPs.
Commemorating the Fall of Bataan and remembering the Death March are worthwhile and in fact important to our development as a nation and a people. The commemoration should remind us Filipinos that we have heroes –like the Death Marchers and the Fallen 44 PNP-SAF commandos –who were men of valor, of bravery and courage possessed of the iron will to make patriotic sacrifices for our country and for our freedoms.
President BS Aquino will give a speech today–if he doesn’t change the schedule–at the commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan at Mt. Samat, Pilar, Bataan. If has not reformed, he will use the occasion to attack those whom he considers his enemies, bad Filipinos whose aim he believes is to derail the reform program of his administration.
There is, however, no reform program. What we have had all these almost five years of his six-year term are untruthful claims of being a reformist administration. Instead of being reformist and devoted to good governance and combating corruption, his administration has expanded corruption and coddled corrupt officials and wrongdoers.
He has bribed lawmakers in both houses to make Congress his tool. He and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad even invented mechanisms–like the DAP–to overturn the rule of law to be able to use funds any way they like in violation of constitutional provisions.
He has continued to lie and preposterously blame others for his own criminal acts or his criminal refusal to act to prevent the slaughter of our valorous Fallen 44 Heroes of the PNP-SAF by MILF and BIFF fighters in Mamasapano.
We are celebrating our Day of Valor today under a regime that has exalted the opposite trait–Cowardice.
Mr. Aquino and his key collaborators are consumed by cowardice–an overwhelming concern for their selfish interests, which makes them unable to do or say what is right, good and helpful to others and beneficial to our society, nation and Republic.
They are not people of valor.